Know Yourself: Tracee Ellis Ross On Being Your Own ‘Woe’

Tracee Ellis Ross’ melodic voice is booming through VIBE HQ with her special rendition of Drake’s “Legend.”

“Oh my God! Oh my God!,” she sing-raps before our interview, letting her rap alter-ego, T Murda, hog the spotlight for a few seconds. Still, it’s hard to dismiss Tracee Ellis Ross’s multiple personalities when the five-foot-seven bundle of comedy has a room full of editors trying to stifle their laughter.

The five-time host of BET’s Black Girls Rock! and star of ABC’s family hit Black-ish has no problem being the life of the party. Even with a 5:30am call time on a Monday, the curly-haired goddess still gives the same amount of life, if not more, than her on-screen counterpart, Rainbow Johnson.

For the final installment of VIBE’s “In A League Of Their Own” series this month, Tracee transforms into life coach and dishes out her tips on maximizing family time, learning the business of entertainment and why you should probably never refer to her as a “boss.”

On owning your confidence:
That’s a lifelong journey. There were a couple of lily pad moments where I sort of landed into trusting who I was, who I am and discovering that. Some of those were struggle-y moments where I was forced to make an empowered choice about myself instead of letting a circumstance take me down. I remember when I was dropped by my agents early, early on in my career. They said I didn’t pop when I walked into a room. At the time, maybe I didn’t pop when I walked into a room or maybe I didn’t know who I was but it was one of those moments in my life and in my career where I remember crying to my sister and thinking, ‘I don’t know that I can do this as a career. This is too hard.’ And if [doing this] means that people get to make a comment on who I am, I took it very personally and it was the beginning of a lot of growth of me. A lot of what people think of me is none of my business. It kinda doesn’t matter to me. I get to follow my own bliss. I unconsciously set a really clear intention of what I wanted my job and career to be. It was the beginning of who I wanted to be and I made the choice in that moment that I was only going to continue doing acting if it was fun. It has done that.

How I learned the business of the business:
I came out of the womb, not understanding [the business] but loving it. I was very lucky [to have] my mom, who has been very involved in her career. She is a very smart, participatory business woman. She handles all her stuff so I learned that through her. You can see it through all my siblings. We’re all very capable, self-sufficient, participatory people. I handle my shit. In terms of the business of the business that I’m in, you learn as you go. Some of it is trial and error. Some of it is making sense as you go and asking questions. My mom has always said to us when we were young, ‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question. The worst answer you’ll get is a no.’ And that goes two-fold. There’s no such thing as a stupid question so you should always ask if you don’t know, and anything is possible that you might as well ask ‘cause the worst you’ll get is a “no.” In my opinion, small no’s are always big yeses. So man’s rejection is God’s protection.

If I wasn’t an actor:
I would probably be a teacher or a therapist.

The key to maximizing family time:
iPhone threads! I have five siblings and everyone except for me is in a relationship and a lot of them have kids and step-siblings, and we’re all on a thread with my mom and it’s really fun. She sends a lot of good texts, though. She’s great with emojis and sends those moving ones that I don’t know how to do myself.

The (other) key to maximizing family time:
It’s all about priorities and putting things into perspective. Part of myself cares about being with my family and I really like to balance out what I’m doing with my life. I’ve been working really hard lately. We’ve had long hours on Black-ish, which has been really exciting. No one tells you how hard the dream is but I think it’s important for people to know that the job that I have is incredibly glamorous. We get to do a lot of exciting, sexy, incredible things but it’s a job. You have to carve out space and time for the things that are important to you so there’s a balance in your life. For me, it’s incredibly important. I gotta get my sleep even though I don’t often get the eight hours that I’d like. I’m really mindful of the way I eat when I’m working hard and I’m also really mindful of carving out time for my family, like making sure you remember to call people on their birthdays and making sure you’re there for your siblings for those special moments when you can be.

My go-to workout routine:
I do the Tracy Anderson method a lot. We’ve been working 15 hours on [Black-ish] and our call time is 6am but I get excited if I have a 7:30, 8am call time ‘cause I work out at 5:30 or 6. I can’t get it in everyday because when you’re over 40—I’m 42—you gotta get your sleep. It’s no joke. I do love Tracy Anderson, the blasting music. I love that it changes all the time. I love that she really sculpts a workout for my body. I feel lean. One of my favorite things is that she doesn’t get me cut up. There’s still some jiggle. I love jiggle. I think movement is important but I also often switch it up and work out with Jeanette Jenkins. I love what she does and we often lift weights together. I’ll do the Santa Monica stairs. I’ll do some yoga. I also love Ballet Beautiful. Everyone can do that online. And there’s a lot of stuff online for the Tracy Anderson method. You sweat a ton, which I think is awesome. I like to stay moving.

The definition of a boss:
Managing a team is being part of a team. Managing, controlling, directing, none of that is my thing. We all play a part. It’s like you think of a family. Think of the President, it takes a Cabinet. It’s the same with anything. You need support. None of us do this alone.

Stay tuned for the full interview with Tracee Ellis Ross.

Photo Credit: VIBE/ Karl Ferguson

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